Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jesus is Lord of all . . .

The devotional book that I’m using this year has given much space to the preeminence of Christ. While the author’s words are good, the Lord usually speaks to me a little differently, often from the same Scripture passages. This is also evidence of His Lordship; He knows each human heart and life situation. He knows what His people need to hear on any given day. As I read through today’s passages, these thoughts came to me concerning the evidence God has shown me that Jesus is Lord of all . . .

Death could not hold Him.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it . . . . Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2: 22–24; 36)

There are other resurrections recorded in the Bible, but all of them were at the command of God’s servants, either prophets or Jesus Christ, yet Jesus rose from the grave without anyone calling Him to come forth. It was simply impossible for the Author of life to stay dead. He is Lord.

He changes the lives of those who believe.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1–4)

The Word of God says that when a person believes, they become a new creation. We do not become perfect in this life (our old nature habitually interferes), but change happens, and perfection will be ours in eternity. Others may form new habits or be affected by events that change their value system, but only Jesus Christ can turn hearts from sin and selfishness, that we can consider others more significant than themselves. He is Lord.

He obeyed God completely.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11)

Not one Christian or anyone else can make this claim of being totally obedient. Only Jesus is totally sinless. Only Jesus is totally worthy of worship for He is unlike anything or anyone else. This is God the Son, the God-man who reveals the Father, who listens to the Spirit, who is without any reason to humble Himself except that God sent Him to earth to do it. He set aside His rights as God and took on human flesh as a baby! He grew and learned obedience through the things He suffered — just like we do. He then did the unthinkable; He took our sin on Himself, bore our guilt and took our punishment by dying for us. Not only that, for those who believe He gives His righteousness, even His very life, that we might live forever. No one else can do that, even if they wanted to. Jesus is Lord.

Jesus, every morning when I sit down to hear from You, You never disappoint me. Your voice is like a warm blanket, covering my anxious thoughts, and restoring that which so often slips my mind. You get inside my head and tell me exactly what I need to hear, replacing my foolish ideas with Your wisdom, forgiving and comforting that foolishness and telling me again and again that I am Yours and You are mine. You have risen from the dead, and You are at work in this world. Yes, You are Lord of all!

Monday, December 11, 2017

By God’s grace

My husband goes to a men’s early morning Bible study when his work commitments allow. Every year, the leader and his wife host a gathering of those men and their wives. The food is wonderful and their home looks like a magazine feature for Christmas décor.

At the same time, both host and hostess are more focused on the Lord and the Lord’s work than anything else. I appreciated their beautiful home, yet it is their lives that are worthy of imitating. Both thoughts leave me feeling a bit intimidated.

This morning’s usual devotion was not ‘calling my name’ so I asked the Lord what to read and He sent me to Charles Spurgeon’s devotional called “Morning and Evening.” The verse for the day came from this passage:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–24)

This brief passage says much about how to live the Christian life. Sometimes this ‘list’ seems impossible. Joy is almost always deep within me, but expressing it is sometimes elusive. I do not pray without ceasing and nor am I always thankful. I’m learning to listen to the Holy Spirit without throwing a wet blanket on His gentle commands, and learning to test them and hold on to them, but must confess that I fail often.

Yet despite my stumbles and failings, the Bible says that all who are in relationship with Jesus Christ are secure. I am His child and have committed my life to His keeping. Experience proves that His promises are true; He is a faithful and unchanging Savior.

Because this is a reality, I can enjoy security in this life. It is not that “high and glorious security which renders us free from every slip” but still a precious security. Jesus promises that no one who believes in Him will ever perish and that I will eternally be where He is. Living for Him may or may not include a well-decorated home, but it does include walking by faith and trusting Him to keep me in His care and present me faultless before His throne. As the Apostle Paul said, by grace, I am what I am.

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your promises and Your power. This produces great joy in my heart — a joy that makes it possible to rejoice always. Keep teaching me to talk with You all day, to be totally thankful in all situations, and to listen and obey You always. May I honor Your faithfulness in every way and never waver from total confidence in You. And keep me from comparing myself with others!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

How much does Revelation reveal?

Writers and English language students learn the intricacies of figures of speech. Poets particularly know the wonders of word pictures, using images to describe invisible qualities, like love, pain, anger, and so on. Unless the average reader understands the image used, much of the Bible can be confusing because it is full of word pictures and symbols. Consider this passage:

“Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:9–11)

Bowls full of plagues? A bride who is married to a Lamb? Carried away in the Spirit? A holy city coming out of heaven? The glory of God shining like a jewel?

I know that the wife represents the church and the Lamb represents Christ who was sacrificed for our sin, but what about the angel saying he will show the bride and then shows a city? How can the wife of the Lamb be a city?

These word pictures have created contention in the realm of theologians as well as in the minds of average readers. Some of it is clear, but much of Revelation hardly seem revealing. In the following verses, I understand a few things — and these are precious truths:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’” (Revelation 21:1–8)

God will somehow replace the heaven and the earth. I know what the earth is, but what is the heaven? The sky? The dwelling place of God? Or is that entire phrase a word picture for something else?

The easier section says God will live with His people and take away all that makes us sad, including death. Everything will be new, and we can count on that. He started all things with a plan and He will finish what He started. He guarantees it.

He also says that sinful people (identified in other places as those who refuse to repent and have no faith in Him) will not be allowed to be with God. Instead, they will wind up in torment.

As for the city, it is further described. Some of the image is sparkling, but most of it is not familiar as a city, nor does it fully describe the “wife of the Lamb” that the angel was revealing:

“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:23–27)

I know what it is like now to walk in the light (understanding) that Christ gives me. Is this the same in that eternal city? I’m not sure, but clearly, this is a place for only the people of God, for those who are in Jesus Christ’s book of life. If I’m unclear about the most of this fascinating book, this one thing I do know: Jesus has given me eternal life. By grace, I have been saved and I know by faith that He is my Savior and my God.

Jesus, You are the head of the church, the beginning of all things, and the preeminent one who rose from the dead. All who believe in You are united to You as a bride to her husband. We will spend eternity with You where there is no more darkness or pain, sorrow or sin. Because of that revelation, I am content to wait and see the meaning of the rest of Your revelation. Until then, I worship and love You with all my heart. You are Emmanuel, God with me!